best of 2015: albums

casio vsco 2our year-end best-of week comes to a close with our favorite albums of 2015.  we’ll spare you from reading any more; click on each album cover to navigate away to a review – more often than not from this site – that adequately portrays our opinions.  as always, our picks will run in alphabetical order, and you can listen to each album by clicking on the link in its title.  dive in.

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mind out wandering coverastronauts, etc. – mind out wandering

depression cherry coverbeach house – depression cherry

new bermudadeafheaven – new bermuda

eskimeaux o.k.eskimeaux – o.k.

foxing dealerfoxing – dealer

ibeyi s:tibeyi – ibeyi

sprained anklejulien baker – sprained ankle

port st. willow syncopeport st. willow – syncope

carrie & lowellsufjan stevens – carrie & lowell

vince-staples-summertime-06vince staples – summertime ’06

astronauts, etc. – mind out wandering

mind out wandering cover
out september 18th via hit city u.s.a.

the debut full-length from oakland-based outfit astronauts, etc. pairs well with coffee.  not a specific roast, necessarily; more so with the routine of brewing it.  the opening third of mind out wandering begins rather placid and resolute, relying on organic textures and steady tempos that feel like analogues to slowly becoming alert and absorbing surroundings in the early morning.

push on to the middle chunk of the album for the brew cycle itself and initial ingestion; the psychedelic one-two punch of “eye to eye” and “shake it loose” is akin to a full-frontal caffeine assault.  by the time the woozy guitar-keyboard tandem melody in album closer “upward swing” hits, the coffee’s warmth and aroma have permeated through the consumer’s body, and all that’s left are the dregs at the bottom of the cup, swirling in time at thirty-three and a third revolutions per minute.

a less circumstantial analogy finds mind out wandering mirroring anthony ferraro’s maturation and confidence as a songwriter.  the album moves logically and purposefully from the comforting confines of his native acoustic piano to full-band textures and outward into the realm of psychedelia.

whether or not these songs are presented chronologically is ultimately inconsequential, however; the comparative sparsity and methodical build of the album’s opening numbers is precisely why “shake it loose” feels so explosive, and why a return to that initial structure on deep cut “control” yields a new, enjoyable set of nuances.

astronauts, etc. thrives on a strong formula that’s equal parts melody and nostalgia.  ferraro’s lead vocal often warbles high above the mix, weaving in and out of instrumental motifs and often supplementing their potency, but the moments when he retreats from the stratosphere are adventurous as well, lock-stepping with his bandmates to create absurdly tight harmonies.  the swirling electric piano pads and bell tones throughout “see you” are indicative of the band’s dreams of yesteryear, though they feel like less of an appropriated celebration and more of a necessary extension of ferraro’s identity as a singer-songwriter.

mind out wandering is one of those albums that gets filed in the “very good” category next to “lazy mornings” and “warm feels.”  go listen to it.

listen to a new song from astronauts, etc.

astronauts, etc
photo courtesy of the artist

anthony ferraro’s work as astronauts, etc. has blossomed into a full-band effort; the oakland outfit will release their debut album, mind out wandering, on september 18th via hit city usa.  we’ve been anticipating this album for the better part of the calendar year, and the band’s prospects only improve with their latest offering, “shake it loose.”  the track sits squarely on the front of the beat, in contrast to previous spaced-out offerings, and finds astronauts, etc. exercising their knowledge of pop mechanics, but “shake it loose” really flourishes once its melody disappears behind a curtain of psychedelic haze at the half-way mark.  take a listen below.

listen to a new song from astronauts, etc.

astronauts, etc.
photo courtesy of gari askew

anthony ferraro has been quietly releasing some of our favorite songs this year with his band astronauts, etc.  the oakland outfit is responsible for the dreamy “no justice” and the swirling, yearning “i know,” and now they’ve returned with their most pop-oriented offering yet, “eye to eye.”  the song is centered around structural simplicity, sanding the instrumentation down to its original, essential surface and putting that raw beauty on a pedestal: a recurring guitar line supplements the song’s repetitive drum beat while playing foil to the placid synth chords blocked out underneath ferraro’s mild-mannered falsetto, allowing the narrative to ebb and flow like the lazy summer tides it evokes.  “eye to eye” is the third single pulled from the band’s debut full length, mind out wandering, due september 18th.  take a listen to the track below.